Writing by: Ryan Pietz
Pitch 17, Duel 2: Moscorn
Moscorn, a humanoid corn stalk and Zell’s next opponent trudged alongside a riverbank lost in the wilderness. He grumbled, “I’ve been chased out of every town, attacked by every stranger, and for what? A magical wish.” The misfortunate Moscorn barely fit in with his own society let alone this foreign world founded upon apartheid. “I don’t want to be accepted by these jerks.” A bird swooped down to feast upon the super-sized vegetable but was quickly dissuaded by the corncob cyclops’s glaring red eye.
Maysians are a naturally unempathetic species gifted with eyes that change color to express their mood. Unfortunately, at some point in Maysian culture it became rude to make eye-contact, which led to disregard for the communicative nature of color and a society of unfriendly jerks. Moscorn’s inability to grasp social norms and inclination for eye-contact quickly established his ostracization. Dropping out of school at an early age, he was burdened with a life of illiteracy, misunderstanding, and comedically foreseeable tragedy.
After several hours of moping along the winding riverbank, Moscorn discovered a curiously magnificent bridge. At the bridge’s entryway, a large sign detailed important information for passing travelers. After smashing the sign, Moscorn plodded across the structure, pausing momentarily to appreciate the tranquil running water in the river below. As he leaned on the railing, the bridge collapsed.
This event, like many others in Moscorn’s life, would have been easily avoided had he been able to read the sign or appreciate the cautionary significance of the color red for the bridge he had been standing upon was not actually a bridge. It had the appearance of a bridge and was at one point intended to be a bridge when it grew up, but due to insufficient funding and budget cuts, its potential was not realized. The bridge was cosmetically completed and declared a work of art as a tax write-off. As a safety precaution, twin signs prominently proclaimed in several languages and bright red symbols that the structure was intended for appreciation, not transportation.
The collapsing bridge became a mere catalyst for Moscorn’s misfortune as he plummeted into the river below. This would not have been a critical situation for most adventurers, or most children, but swimming was not a skill in Moscorn’s repertoire. Fortunately for the corn-man, he did not breath, so he was fully conscious for every tumble and twist as the turbulent torrents tossed the hapless vegetable about. “I hate this world. Why did I ever agree to this?” griped the cantankerous corn, flipping ear over stalks. “I’m not even sure what I agreed to.”
Without warning the river transformed into a waterfall, conveniently upgrading Moscorn’s tumultuous ride into a first class free fall. As the corn-man plummeted toward the rock laden lake below, he adroitly observed a man dressed in a bright red coat and a meditating boy clothed in a loincloth. Rapidly descending upon the unaware adolescent, Moscorn warned, “Look out below!”
The Vegetable’s Perspective
The boy and the corn collided in a watery explosion of animal, vegetable, and mineral. The boy swam ashore as Moscorn dug his stalks into the lakebed and crawled out of the water.
Glaring at Moscorn, the boy groaned, “That really hurt.”
“Sorry. I tried to warn you,” replied Moscorn, glancing up at what he perceived as a Camden leisure pirate and Mogli the jungle boy.
“My name is Moscorn,” explained Moscorn.
“Zell, he doesn’t appear to be moving,” whispered the pirate.
Moscorn’s eye darted from side to side to see who else they could be referring to.
“Do you think he’s injured?” announced Zell, running forward.
Moscorn stuck out his arm-stalks. “I’m fine. I just have a hea-”
Before he could finish, Zell grabbed Moscorn’s wrists, hurdled over the corn, and yanked him to the ground. Uninjured but significantly incensed, Moscorn glared up at the boy and snapped, “What did you do that for?!”
The man in the coat scoffed at the creature from several paces away, “Should he be breathing?”
“Don’t worry, Kane. I know what to do,” announced Zell, cart-wheeling onto the corn-man’s chest.
“Get. Off. Me. Now,” growled Moscorn as his eye grew a shade darker.
Zell smiled, presented a compliant thumbs-up, and pounded upon the vegetable’s chest ineffectually.
“That’s it! You’ve popped my last kernal!” cursed Moscorn, his eye turning ragey red. He hurled the boy several meters into the air, planted his feet into the dirt, and uprighted himself like a Weeble.
Zell gracefully landed unharmed and next to Kane. The boy mocked his opponent’s attack, “That didn’t work.”
“If you so much as touch me again-” Moscorn paused, did not breath deeply, and resumed, “No. That’s far too generous. I am going to close my eye, count to one, and open it again. If I see you, you will die.”
Moscorn closed his malicious, maroon eye.
“I wonder who he is?” inquired the pirate. He withdrew a telescope from his coat and examined the maysian from afar. Kane jested, “Do you think he’s Cornian?”
“One,” counted Moscorn.
“I think he’s my next opponent,” answered Zell, holding out the paper that had previously occupied Moscorn’s pocket. “He has tournament instructions.”
Moscorn’s eye opened murderous, midnight black. The combative corn’s arm-stalks formed bamboo like spears that flew towards the two assailants. Zell tumbled to the side, but one of the spears pierced the pirate’s side, felling him to the ground.
To Moscorn’s surprise, Kane gripped the stalk and stood up. “We probably shouldn’t leave him out here. Let’s get him in the cave.”
“Right,” agreed Zell as he grasped Moscorn’s retracting right arm and began towing him toward the hollow.
Moscorn wrapped his left arm around Kane’s waist and swung the man at Zell like a flail. Clobbering the boy with his own companion, Moscorn knocked Zell into the cave. Kane reestablished his footing and resumed dragging his intended victim into the alcove. Moscorn gave in to the draw, tackled Kane into the cavern, and proceeded to pummel him. Zell gripped the corn’s feet from behind and plunged them into the ground. While Moscorn momentarily ceased his assault to observe his now buried stalks, Zell remarked, “Look what I found,” and bopped the hat from the Maysian’s head into Kane’s hands.
“Is this your hat, Mr. Corn?” taunted the wounded man, feebly flaunting the headgear.
The enraged outcast thrust his spear-like hand through Kane’s chest. As Moscorn stood over his kill, Zell knelt down at his friend’s side.
“Kane…” cried the boy softly, prodding his companion. Zell faced Moscorn. The orphaned boy’s tears dripped upon the corn-man’s stalks as Zell sobbed, “What will we do if he doesn’t wake up?”
Moscorn recoiled at the boy’s helpless face, familiar despair struck his heart. “You attacked me. I was defending myself,” yelled the monster angrily, but he knew in his heart that the boys attacks were of no real threat and that the pirate had done nothing aggressive. Moscorn saw the blood on his hands and his own despair in the boy’s eyes. “I didn’t want this,” cried Moscorn in defeat. “I didn’t want this.”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try a healing potion,” suggested Kane, waking Moscorn from his nightmare.
[What really happened.]
The boy and the corn collided in a watery explosion of animal, vegetable, and mineral. Zell crawled ashore and groaned, “That really hurt.”
Helping his companion out of the water, Kane observed Moscorn’s cob floating motionless in the shallow lake. “Zell, he doesn’t appear to be moving.”
“Do you think he’s injured?” asked Zell, running through the water to rescue the vegetable. Kane flew after the boy.
The duo each grabbed an arm and hauled the corn-man onto dry land with a heave.
After dragging the unconscious corn out of the water, Kane noted, “Should he be breathing?”
“Don’t worry, Kane. I know what to do,” volunteered Zell, confident in his Sensei’s water safety lessons. Stradling the oversized corncob, Zell pushed repeatedly on Moscorn’s chest ineffectually. Realizing he didn’t actually know what to do, Zell sighed, “That didn’t work.”
“I wonder who he is?” pondered the merchant. Zell shrugged and searched through Moscorn’s jacket pockets.
Taxonomic queries seeped to the forefront of Kane’s thoughts, inspiring him to muse. “Do you think he’s Cornian?
“I think he’s my next opponent. He has tournament instructions,” answered Zell, holding out the paper that had previously occupied Moscorn’s pocket.
“We probably shouldn’t leave him out here. Let’s get him in the cave,” suggested Kane.
“Right,” agreed Zell with a nod; the pair gripped Moscorn’s arms and legs, and carried the corn to the cove.
Spotting Moscorn’s ushanka (hat) floating in the lake, the curious youth waded back into the water while Kane filled his floating disc with soil to bury Moscorn’s feet in a small mound.
Upon retrieving the soggy head-ware, Zell remarked, “Look what I found.”
“Is this your hat, Mr. Corn?” asked Kane with concern, pondering how to proceed with the patient. Dripping water on Moscorn’s stalks, the boy adopted an uncharacteristically serious tone and inquired, “Kane… what will we do if he doesn’t wake up?”
The senior physician established a contemplative pose for a moment before resolving, “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try a healing potion.” Kane poured the healing brew down the stranger’s cornhole, waking him from his concussion induced catnap. Moscorn’s eye opened deep blue.
Zell cheered, “It worked! Are you ok?”
“What happened?” moaned Moscorn, still regaining consciousness.
Kane answered, “You hit your head really hard when you came down the falls. We pulled you out of the water and into this cave, and then Kane gave you a healing potion.”
Moscorn attempted to stand, but his feet were covered in a mound of dirt.
Kane rubbed the back of his head, and apologized, “Sorry about that. I don’t know anything about your species so I thought you might like some soil.”
Moscorn looked down at his feet and then at the merchant. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” replied Kane.
“Why did you help me?” inquired the maysian, his eye shifting to a muddled gray. “Aren’t we opponents?”
“I think so, but you’re injured,” admitted Zell, “and we can duel when you feel better.”
“When I feel better?” asked the competitor. “You would help an enemy?”
Zell replied jovially, “We’re not enemies.”
“Of course not,” decided Zell. “We may fight, but we can still be friends.”
“Friends?” questioned Moscorn looking into the boy’s shining eyes.
With an emphatic nod, Zell replied, “Friends.”
Moscorn’s eye eased to a peaceful green. He placed his damp ushanka upon Zell’s head. “Fighting will not make my wish come true. Good luck on your quest, Zell.”
Kane raised his hand to ask about Moscorn’s chameleon-like eye and how he knew Zell’s name, but the stranger had already left, swinging through the trees like Tarzan. Zell stood silent with a shimmering gaze. After a moment he turned to Kane and spoke, “My hat is awesome!”